Local tourists trickle back to coast hotels after lockdown

Pride Inn Group staff do aerobics at the Pride Inn Paradise Beach Resort Convention Centre and Spa during the hotel's reopening last week. The five star resort has met strict health protocols as it seeks to welcome guests in the new normal. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Hotels in Mombasa and Malindi are beginning to fill up with domestic tourists following the relaxation of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

According to the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) at least 40 per cent of hotels and resorts have reopened after shutting down for months, with some recording more than 50 per cent bookings.

“With the phased reopening (of the economy) we expect a recovery in domestic tourism, which accounts for 53 per cent of Kenya’s hotel room occupancy,” KAHC Coast branch Executive Officer Dr Sammy Ikwaye said.

Malindi and Watamu were especially hit by the Covid-19 pandemic that led to closure of all tourist hotels, denying thousands of workers livelihoods for close to five months.

With the lifting of travel restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the disease, hotel owners say local guests are beginning to trickle in.

However, facilities that solely depend on international clients have recorded less progress.

The Kenya Coast Tourist Association (KCTA) was less optimistic on the impact of lifting the travel restrictions, saying there are a few signs of recovery. This even after Kenya announced the resumption of international flights to select destinations.

“Most of our facilities are only getting guests on weekends. We have very low business during week days. In fact, the resumption of international flights has not seen increased bookings as yet,” said KCTA chairman Victor Shitakah, who is also the general manager of Flamingo by Pride Inn.

Shitakah said the association’s members had reopened for business after aligning themselves to the new set of protocols laid out by the Health ministry to contain spread of Covid-19.

Both associations have, however, criticised some of the protocols issued by government, saying they are not viable.

According to KCTA, the ban on alcohol sale in hotel bars has not gone down well with hoteliers.

“This is next to impossible. Those coming for holidays feel that the hotel is their second home and would want to have a drink outside their rooms or at a designated place within the hotel,” said Shitakah.

North Coast region hoteliers association chair Ms Maureen Awuor said protocols on alcohol consumption should be consistent. “We need clarification on a number of areas such as selling of liquor, which forms part of our cuisine,” she said.

According to Awuor, all hotels in the association have complied with the laid out Covid-19 restrictions and health officials had given them the green light to reopen after checking to ensure there was compliance.

“They checked to ensure that we comply with the 1.5-meter social distancing, sanitisers, hand-washing facilities and mandatory wearing of masks before certifying us,” said Awuor, who is also the general manager of Ocean Beach Resort.

“We at Ocean Beach opened on August 1, and we are doing well with the local market, with 60 per cent bed occupancy,” she said.

At the Diamonds Dream of Africa group of hotels in Malindi, consisting of Sandies Tropical Village, Dream Gardens, Dream of Africa and Diamond Conference, General Manager Alex Zissimatos said the facility had been hosting local tourists and that international guests were expected from October.

Guests at the hotels should, however, not expect any alcohol outside their rooms.

“We shall not be selling any alcoholic drinks to our clients, as we strictly observe the Covid-19 protocols set out by the government,” he added.

He said all employees, especially those who work past curfew time, were well catered for and would be spending nights in some of the hotels rooms to avoid ugly scenes with law enforcers.

Jotham Mwangombe, the operations manager at Diani Reef Beach Resort & Spa in Kwale County, said bed occupancy during weekends was at least 50 per cent.

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